Although the Spirit of 1776 still lingers in the Philadelphia air, some of the most exciting things happening in Philadelphia are of a recent vintage. From innovative and interactive museums to a surprising array of moderately-priced kosher restaurants, Philadelphia has a lot to offer and conveniently located just a short drive from Baltimore/Washington and New York City, it’s easy to spend 24 hours in Philadelphia.
We started our day at The Barnes Foundation, a magnificent art museum that moved from Lower Merion to its stunning downtown Philadelphia location in 2011. Established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922, the Barnes holds one of the finest collections of post-impressionist and early modern paintings in America, with extensive holdings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as American masters and decorative arts from around the globe.
All those still-life portraits can make you hungry and Philadelphia boasts a number of affordable options for lunch. Mama’s Vegetarian is a popular spot for falafel, salads and other Middle Eastern fare. For carnivores, Judah Mediterranean Grill and Hamifgash offer glatt kosher Israeli food and other tastes of the Mediterranean. There are also two Chinese restaurants and a vegan pizza shop that are under some form of kosher supervision.
We decided to venture outside of the city to try Citron and Rose, an upscale restaurant located in Lower Merion (about 20 minutes from downtown Philly). Owner David Magerman and Chef Michael Solomonov opened the restaurant to rave reviews in 2012 before splitting up a few months ago over creative differences.
Chef Karen Nicolas, who was named “Best New Chef” by Food & Wine in 2012, is now behind the kitchen at Citron and Rose and although this was my first visit to the restaurant, it’s hard to imagine a much better dining experience regardless of who was wearing the apron. The restaurant aims to take traditional Jewish foods and present them with a modern, creative edge. I enjoyed Spinach-Kasha Croquettes with seeded gherkin relish and cascabel pepper aioli as my starter. I also had both the Citron Burger served with tomato confit, sauce remoulade and saffron-onion pickles and absolutely loved the Spit Roasted Lamb Reuben served with sauerkraut, roasted red pepper and thousand island dressing on a thinly sliced rye crisp.
After lunch, we visited The National Museum of American Jewish History, located adjacent to the Independence Mall in Philadelphia. The Museum highlights the 350-year history of Jews in America, and vividly and poignantly shares the story of the American Jewish experience from before the American Revolution through the turbulent 20th century where World War II and the Holocaust as well as assimilation, the civil rights movement and prosperity challenged traditional Jewish identity.
Since it was July 4th, my evening entertainment was skyward. The City puts together a massive street party followed by some of the best fireworks in the country, set against the backdrop of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (cue the “Rocky” theme song). All in all it was a wonderful day in Philadelphia and I look forward to my next visit.
If you live nearby or recently came back from Philly, share some of your recommendations and kosher travel tips below. We’d love to hear from you!